A cache of emails and the latest on the Senate scandal - Macleans.ca

A cache of emails and the latest on the Senate scandal

Privy Council Office tells RCMP ex-PMO staffer Ben Perrin’s emails not deleted


OTTAWA – The federal government says it is handing over to police a recently discovered cache of emails belonging to Benjamin Perrin, former counsel for the Prime Minister’s Office and a central figure in the Senate spending scandal.

The Privy Council Office released a letter to the RCMP on Sunday saying it had been mistaken when it originally told investigators that Perrin’s emails were deleted, in keeping with standard procedure, when he left the job in March.

In fact, Perrin’s emails were already being preserved in connection with an unrelated matter, says the letter, which is signed by Isabelle Mondou, assistant secretary to the cabinet in the office of the counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council.

“Upon Mr. Perrin’s departure at the end of his employment in late March 2013, the PMO was provided a notice that his emails had been deleted from the computer server,” Mondou writes.

“On Nov. 29, 2013, we found that Mr. Perrin’s emails had in fact been retained due to a litigation hold in an unrelated matter.”

Perrin’s name appears repeatedly in RCMP documents released two weeks ago containing explosive allegations about a scheme to repay Sen. Mike Duffy’s disallowed housing expenses and whitewash a Senate report into the controversy.

The documents allege senior PMO staffers — including Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff and the man who paid Duffy’s $90,000 bill — were involved in trying to work out a deal with Duffy to repay his expenses and worked with top Tory senators to change a report on Duffy after unsuccessfully trying to shape an independent audit into his expenses.

In May, Perrin denied that he was ever consulted about, or participated in, Wright’s decision to cover Duffy’s expenses, and said he never communicated with Harper about it.

But emails disclosed by the RCMP in documents filed in court show Perrin was intimately involved in negotiations with Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne, who set out five conditions — including full reimbursement — that had to be met in return for Duffy’s admission that he mistakenly claimed a housing allowance to which he was not entitled.

Indeed, Wright at one point emailed Duffy in exasperation, saying that if the senator continued to misquote him, they would converse in future strictly through their lawyers, Perrin and Payne.

The deal originally involved the Conservative party reimbursing Duffy for repaying his expenses, while curtailing an audit into his claims. Conservative Fund chairman Irving Gerstein, also a senator, initially agreed to reimburse Duffy when the tab was thought to be only $32,000 but balked when it became clear it was upwards of $90,000.

At Wright’s behest, Gerstein also solicited information from a contact at auditing firm Deloitte about the status of their report on Duffy.

The RCMP alleges that Wright and Duffy committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust in cooking up the deal. The allegations have not been proven in court, and no one has yet been charged.

However, last week, University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran filed a complaint against both Perrin and Payne with the law societies in British Columbia, where Perrin now teaches law at UBC, and Ontario, where Payne practices. He claims the duo “violated the ethics of the profession” in helping to craft an illegal deal between Wright and Duffy.

Perrin has engaged legal counsel and has declined all comment.

Duffy has also refused to comment on the latest allegations. Wright maintains he acted within the scope of his position as chief of staff and remains confident his actions were legal.

The new cache of Perrin emails could shed further light on his involvement in the transaction.

The Privy Council Office says it will “immediately turn over these email records” to the RCMP and that it has apologized to both the RCMP and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“We regret that we previously failed, even if inadvertently, to accurately inform you and the PMO about the availability of Mr. Perrin’s emails,” Mondou writes. “We apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.”

Harper has steadfastly maintained that he was kept in the dark about the scheme until learning May 15 that Wright had repaid Duffy’s expenses, and has been laying the blame squarely at their feet. But a compelling series of emails between various PMO operatives, including Perrin, suggest details of the plan were more widely known than Harper has suggested.

Wright resigned from the PMO in May, shortly after the details of the payment emerged. But other senior staff in the PMO, including director of issues management Chris Woodcock and manager of parliamentary affairs Patrick Rogers, were also active in the discussions about how to get Duffy to repay his expenses, the documents show.

Both are still with the government: Woodcock works for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, Rogers for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover.

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A cache of emails and the latest on the Senate scandal

  1. OOPS, well, better an oversight than a felony, eh?

  2. I trust that those seething over the privacy commissioner’s findings re the emails in the gasplant documents will find this more telling admission even more shocking and give it its due.

    (I do not really expect this).

    • I agree completely that the Provincial gasplant scandal involved much more money and both this Senate scandal and the gasplant scandal went all the way to the Prime Minister/Premier respectively. Since Canadians can really only manage one scandal at a time, we need to focus.

      For that reason, I continue to call upon McGuinty to do the right thing and resign.

      Until that day that McGuinty resigns, the gasplant scandal will remain the biggest scandal in the country! (well the biggest scandal in the largest province of the country) Moreover, all writers covering national issues or the federal parliament should include references to the gasplants in every story until we rid ourselves (at least those in Ontario) of McGuinty.

      • Actually, forget all that above. Rob Ford trumps all.

      • Why the hell isn’t Wherry, who writes about federal politics almost exclusively, writing about goings-on in the Ontario provincial legislature? What is his agenda, besides focusing on federal politics over provincial politics? I demand satisfaction, sir!

      • I love this: “Ontario is the biggest province in Canada and this cost us a lot of money, so we don’t have to think about what’s going on in the federal government, which in fact manages the administration of the entire country!” Is magnitude of cost the only – or most important – measure that matters when considering the conduct of politicians? Perhaps our Prime Minister knowingly appointing ineligible senators and possibly helping to cover up what would amount to illegal activity (e.g. bribery and fraud) are cause to scrutinize the actions of Stephen Harper, his office, and the Conservative government at large? It’s incredibly weak that, when faced with these very serious issues, people have the audacity to declare that we should not or cannot concentrate on this particular problem – one that affects all Canadians – simply because other things are happening (at a lower level of government, no less), apparently because we don’t have the desire or ability to think about more than one problem at a time. If that’s the assumption, then I’d like to remind these people that they speak for themselves. I for one don’t have a problem discussing the gas plant controversy *when we are discussing the gas plant controversy*, and not at the expense of other issues which are also (more) damaging to our democracy and governance. The fact that people take the time to comment under an article but completely avoid discussing the content suggests to me that either they don’t have anything valid to say (and they know it), or they know that this is a huge problem and for some inconvenient reason, their only way of ‘dealing’ with it is by trying to divert our attention elsewhere. Nice try, but you fail.

        • it’s Rob Ford’s fault,( according to Toronto’ s sore losers)

          • Oh, there you go! Let’s *not* talk about Harper or Wynne – let’s talk about Rob Ford, because he is just so much more relevant to this article.

  3. Like the drip, drip, drip of water torture, news on this issue keeps coming, daily and weekly. Harper’s Cons have this prospect facing them into the distant horizon…or until an election.

  4. Perrin’s emails were deleted when he left the job in March, in keeping with standard procedure.

    Yeah, right.

    This standard procedure seems to apply only for governments in trouble (like McGuinty’s with respect to the cancelled gas plants). Revenue Canada requires that everyone keeps records for 7 years. To suggest that any government has this policy and that such email deletions are extended to all archive and backup copies sounds like pure unadulterated bullshit. Just ask anyone who is tasked with maintaining a large email system.

    If that is really the case, then maybe they should contact CSEC, the NSA or any of the Five-Eyes partners for backup copies. We know they have them, along with any postings here and any emails that you or I have sent or received.

  5. But but but — Nero, I mean Harper sang again, you jackels. What more do you want?

    • Nero sang? I thought he fiddled.

      • Stop that. Harper both sang AND fiddled (with stuff). While Canada burns. Or something. Mumble mumble analogies are hard.

  6. PACK OF WOLVES ON THE HILL orchestrated by the (FOOL ON THE HILL – Beatles) – CHIEF DECEIVER – an insult to Common’s Decency and ethnic peoples of Canada. IN RETROSPECT & DUE-PROCESS INEXPLICABLE TO THE PARTY BASE: the House, Senate and all premature Judgers (Proud, Superficial, Canadians) must publically apologize without reservation to Sen. Duffy. Everyone has been duped by a deeply corrupting, all pervasive, plague at the core of government – the culture of Harperizm. Sen. Duffy’s (Audio): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/duffy-speechmp3/article15006064/ Quoting the speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella on 2nd /12/2013: “The rules are not clear enough”. So why was Sen. Duffy condemned without due-process? Aside: Perin’s emails were deleted from one server (by someone – when and by whom?) and a précis of some emails were kept on another server – just in case the long arm of the law were to reach into the filth of Harperizm – a system that throws anyone to the wolves at the drop of a hat. As the saying goes, ‘Run with the wolves, die with the wolves’.
    Day after day,
    Alone on a hill,
    The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
    But nobody wants to know him,
    They can see that he’s just a fool,
    And he never gives an answer, . . .

  7. I think its high time PMO comes clean on the senate scandal.

  8. They are caught paying back or trying to payback monies. And emails may even prove it. This is a Toronto Scandal, wherein, a Breach of Public Trust is defined by politic views, and wherein the RCMP joins in as politicized or maybe worse. I think Breach of Public Trust is Ontario gas plant monies, and proposed 42% electrical rate increases, and further, that payback of Senator expense monies means the best possible solution is made and end of story. And more real Breach of Public Trust would include all public sector pensions, and independent audits and investigations are reasonable for all Government enterprises including CBC, RCMP, cities, power companies.

  9. And, then there is a UofO law professor, giving his two cents worth, and I question if it is worth that much. This is the university that wouldn’t allow Ann Coulture to talk, because UofO doesn’t agree with what she would say, which gives the message that they only teach ideas that they agree with. And now a law prof actually wants to have individuals punished for crimes they are not convicted of, and shouldn’t be. But does the prof go after anyone in the Ont. government or elsewhere? Sounds like ideology replacing law. Surely, a law school and their profs must have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of law.